Training with 3D Shooting Targets



The belt-buckle-to-belt-buckle conundrum is one that sooner or later, most who take training/practice seriously will come to realize.

We don't exist in a two-dimensional world, and the fact that we're shooting to damage three-dimensional targets (organs) that are themselves situated in a three-dimensional container (the body) which can, at any one time, be oriented differently in three-dimensional space....it's a complicated equation! 🤓

In 2016, we saw this incident here in Ohio - Man with CCW permit shoots armed Family Dollar robbery suspect - which sparked some discussion on the Ohioans for Concealed Carry Forums, of which I made the following reply regarding not just head shots, but specific to this case, someone who was "shot in the eye." --->

It's really all about the angles, and what tissues are disrupted/destroyed via the bullet's passing.

"Belt-buckle-to-belt-buckle" is what we typically look at when we are shooting on the square range. Our target is a one-dimensional one, and we therefore must make the necessary anatomical correlations as-such.

Once the body starts to rotate and present at different angles in space, things get considerably more complicated.

Let's forget the "skull kill shot" for a bit. Let's make this easier, how big is the target - let's say high-center-mass - when a person is sideways?

From the late Louis Awerbuck's teachings - for those of you who are unfamiliar, his "Mirage Target System" (of the former Yavapai Firearms Academy, which he was the head of until he passed away recently) ranks right up there with the Rogers Reactive, and is unique in simulating a real-world, dynamic, encounter, complete with backdrop and foreground concerns - we understand that a dynamic, real-world confrontation in which both parties are moving will make marksmanship considerably harder: that there is a very physical/mathematical reason why even trained individuals miss at close range.

In addition to the body-size metric Mr. Awerbuck presented in the free Panteao Productions "Tactical Tips" segment ( abstracted from his full-length DVD, from the same source: Panteao Productions - Louis Awerbuck: Body Sizes ), we are reminded by him that the actual "vital area" for a human target, high-center-mass, is really no wider than ~ 9 inches, full-frontal, no matter how big the person. That this "breast-plate," as he calls it, essentially shrinks when the target is presented to the shooter at an angle.

You can visualize this "shrinkage" quite easily simply by holding up any two-dimensional printed target tilting it away from you. For example, the width of an 8 and 1/2 inch wide sheet of common notebook/copier paper becomes an apparent 6 inches, with only about a 20-degree shift. Additionally, Mr. Awerbuck points out that shooting at a side-profile of a person, you only have a 4-inch wide target to work with, that by the time a target is bladed away from you by 45 degrees, this is all you have of their vital zone (this is alluded to when he presented the "folded" printed target in the "Target Selection" free "Tactical Tip" from Panteao, again available on YouTube as an abstracted segment: Panteao Productions - Louis Awerbuck: Target Selection ).

Additional complications arise from anatomic concerns when the body is rotated in space, and these considerations are not visualized with standard 2-dimensional targets.

In June of 2015, this video popped up on the PDN - Firearms Training: Angles with 2D vs 3D Targets | PDN . Similarly, Mr. Claude Werner's excellent article "Why I hate the -3 Zone" also applies here, in-spades: Why I hate the -3 zone . And, more recently, https://gundocdoctrine.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/2978/ and https://www.police1.com/police-prod...ohn-hearne-cannot-be-missed-mFJ5JbXQULErfZ0k/

So with this in-mind, let's go back to that "skull shot." Let's look at the CNS shot - typically portrayed in various two-dimensional targets as either the "eye box" (VTAC and Opsgear), "triangle of death" (what we called it in medical school - and is shown by targets such as those for The Reston Group and the Federal Air Marshal Service) or "the fatal T" (Glockstore/Lenny Magill head-shot overlay).

We are reminded by Awerbuck that this "kill zone" zone as it is printed on paper is only valid when the target is directly facing us in much the same manner that we view a flat-range 2-dimensional paper target. Why? Look at the anatomy - look at what we are actually shooting: we're not shooting "the brain" as a whole - that critical "eyebox/death triangle/fatal-T" delineates an area not only of material weakness in the bony structure that is our head, but also has further implications in terms of the areas of the brain which govern the vital functions that keeps us, as humans, alive. To-wit, Representative Gabrielle Giffords was "shot in the brain."

Boy survives arrow shot through the eye

And let's not forget this one - showing just how much difference a fraction of an inch - or even a variance in individual anatomy - can potentially make: Florida woman survives gunshot between the eyes

We should remember that similar implications carry over to the vital organs and large vessels in the "high center chest" critical area - that depending on how that target actually presents in real-time, in 3-dimensions, taking that "high center chest" shot may actually not produce the result we want (i.e. incapacitation) - that maybe the shot needed to have instead entered through the abdomen or even the crotch, or, in going back to the CNS example, maybe through the neck area in order to reach the anatomy that we need to disrupt.

Marksmanship is never a bad thing.

In addition to the above anatomic/physical considerations, Awerbuck also reminds us that the physical circumstances of the fight can also be used to explain why even trained shooters miss at even close range - that the inverse proportions and simple angular geometry can demonstrate that a dynamic, moving target can well be easier to hit at 13 yards than it is to hit at 3, and that furthermore, at closer range, that angular deviation open up more of the backdrop, making Cooper's "Rule 4" all that much more important when shooting in the "real world." [ Having a hard time grasping these concepts? https://activeselfprotection.com/defend ... g-thieves/ ]

So, as-usual, this is my embarrassingly long way of coming to the point that I want to make.....

It's all too easy to say that "combat effective" shooting is more than sufficient for "the real world."

But that flat-range 2-dimensional target we're shooting at is far from "the real world," and getting "combat effective" hits on it does not translate to what we know of either anatomy or physics. "Combat accuracy" is not a measure of how well one can shoot. It's what the end-result is, after an actual defensive event in which we have discharged our firearm. It accounts for our movements, that of the threat, and the four-thousand-and-one other factors that go into ahat defensive shootout that makes it so much more stressful than even the hardest drill/test we have run on the range. It's what our performance FALLS TO, from the height of perfection that we have attained and truly mastered in practice.

One of Clint Smith's "Clintisms" is that mediocre shooting is often all that's needed to win a gunfight. A corollary to that is the Clintism that we train to magnificence so that we can fall to adequate when under pressure.

If one can only attain adequate or mediocre performance when under training stress, what will he/she fall to, when faced with a violent confrontation?

No-one ever wished they shot slower or were less accurate.

Yes, shooting more rounds, faster, inherently biases the BSA template and compromises accuracy.

That is true for everybody from the completely-fresh-to-shooting novice all the way to the most badass of ninja-killers and even top-tier competition shooters.

But our shots have to count, and here's a lot more involved than what we usually do, when we're on the flat range.
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Good job with your article!

I like Panteao Productions. I got a number of their DVD's. The night vision DVD's are great as well as many of the ones I tried. They give you your money's worth and are an excellent value, although some are hard to navigate.

Paladin Press was the old time leader in books and DVD's but the company died when the founder died. Panteao does a good job replacing Paladin, at least with education in a conservative fashion. (not talking politics) Paladin had some crazy titles.

That McNamara is something...too bad we don't have an army of him cloned to do our battling. The late Jim Cirillo talked a lot about police shootings / penetration in his DVD's. I wonder what them old school cops would think about 2021 America?

I posted this below to gun blog, but they refused to post it, so let me recycle it here. Very similar subject matter, so why not?

On one of the Paladin Press DVD's they gave out Darby's Rangers formula for taking an enemy out. One in the stomach, one in the chest, one in the mouth.

My theory?

In this day and age people can have armor, so maybe start with one below the belt, right above their privates. And if you have to move to the side and avoid the vest; with good penetration, maybe you can go through both lungs. You can also take a hip shot that should buckle someone. And you also have the ear. But I think your average attacker doesn't wear vests.

I use ball ammo or preferably nylon jacketed ammo for maximum penetration. Sadly, the nylon jacketed ammo I was using is hard to acquire any longer. It is not Teflon coated...but it is kinda close. And as a bonus, ball ammo is flawless for running.

The reason I like maximum penetration is...I like maximum penetration. I don't want my rounds stopped by bones or skull, I want the rounds to break through the bones and skull and keep going.

It is pretty simple. If I shoot someone in the heart I want it to go through the heart and out their back. If I shoot someone on the side I want it to go through both lungs and hopefully out their other side. If I shoot someone in one ear I want it to come out of the other ear. And nylon jacketed 9mm has tremendous penetration. It greatly beats many standard (non nylon jacketed) pistol calibers I've tested for penetration. Plus my guns don't have long barrels, (2 - 3 inches) so I need all the help I can get with penetration.

What about excessive penetration and innocent bystanders? Life is tough. If you hear gunshots innocent bystanders...better hit the goddamn deck. And it is not like I'm the hero type looking for gunfights...I'm just after a little self-preservation.

Anyway, in 2021, as America goes down the shidder...innocent bystanders will be the least of our problems. And if you are in a crowded area and can get a contact / CQB shot, aim it downwards for a trajectory through the body.

Here are a few penetration tests I did years ago with stacked newsprint / Kraft paper to give you an idea how various ammo performs. Depending how compressed it is your results will vary.

.22 short 5/8 inch of newsprint (snubnose)
.22 quiet 1 inch of newsprint (snubnose)
.22 HVHP 2-3/8 inches of newsprint (snubnose)
.22 Stinger 3-1/4 inches of newsprint (snubnose)
.380 ball 3-3/8 inches of newsprint (Beretta)
.38 SP Federal ball 4 inches of newsprint (snubnose)
.357 Hornady plastic tip magnum 3-3/4 inches of compressed Kraft paper (snubnose) (a)
.357 Hornady plastic tip magnum 6 inches of compressed Kraft paper (Ruger 4" barrel) (a)
9mm Hornady 6-7/8 inches of newsprint (Beretta)
9mm XXXXX nylon jacket 10 inches of newsprint (Beretta)
.45 Auto ball 4 inches of newsprint (Colt 1911)

(a) Kraft paper offers about 25% more resistance than newsprint.)

I've killed lots of animals in my day. Most of them are varmints. I trap em. I approach it as a laboratory of sorts to see how different shot placement affects the animal and kills it faster.

Coons are very tough animals to kill. I use standard velo .22 L.R. in a suppressed auto pistol, point-blank. (I live in a semi-urban woody area and don't want to draw attention from nosy neighbors).

Now, rabbits, groundhogs and possum roll over dead pretty fast. Especially rabbits. But coons are tough as hell! I've shot them in the eye, ear, head, body and everywhere except up their buttholes and they ALL take a number of standard velo .22 L.R.'s to kill them fast. And when I say fast, I'm talking on average 25 - 40 seconds to go still.

When I killed my first 100 coons or so I would have trouble getting them to stay still enough in the cage to get a head shot. They don't like looking down a gun barrel for sure. So after 100 coons, I gave up with head shots.

Now, I walk up to them, give them a thump to the body and then when they are occupied with the pain, I give them a head shot then another body shot and one more in the head. I try and make all shots crisscrossed somewhat as I will go into below. It is usually all over after 20 - 30 seconds...but NEVER instantly.

Coons just don't drop over dead from standard velo .22 L.R. It takes 3 or 4 standard velo .22 L.R. rounds to stop the squirm within a half a minute. And some tough bastard coons just growl when they take a body shot and look unaffected and just get more pissed. So I give them another one to think about, in a different spot and then go for the head. The reason I don't use Stingers is for the noise. Stingers do better but are a lot louder.

So the moral of the story is this...

You got some wild, crazy bad ass trying to kill you. Give them a few body shots to slow them down working your way up the torso then go for a shot right under the Adam's apple in their jugular notch and then work your way up to a few in the head. And if you have good penetration, good fortune should be on your side.

jugular notch.jpeg

In the old days, 1950's and 60's we used to eat scrambled calf brains. They used to give me Willy's to eat. But growing up poor we ate what we could get. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is this; if you are taking someone out and not playing games, you scramble their brains. One in the forehead or eye and one in the ear. Now you have a recipe for crisscrossed scrambled brains!

Hopefully all this killing theory can stay as such...just theory. But I'm not counting on it. Just look at the trajectory America has been headed in for the last few decades. We are in the worst shape since our founding. Hell, America has gone downhill more in 1-1/2 years than it has gone 50 years or maybe longer? And praying harder won't fix it either! And in 1 or 2 more years who knows where we will be. Just no telling, none at all with the leaders we have.

Oh...one other thing. Shooting coons is not the same as shooting people. But if you have never shot something and watched it die...it is a start! Personally I'd rather be left alone and do my work. But sadly you can't mind your own biz any more. The people in charge won't allow that...they will bring the fight to you.


^ Very good question - and again, the answer is that one has to imagine the anatomy: to see in X-Ray, if you will.

DocGKR's (of M4C.net and other communities) article begins with an introduction to terminal ballistics, and it shows why penetration is such an important measure in the FBI criteria:

^ With flat-range exercises, we are all first exposed to superficial/surface landmarks and cues. For example, with the typically set-up modern AR15 with a 1.57 to 1.93 height-over-bore optic, at CQB distances, experienced shooters are taught to place the dot/crosshair at the hairline in order to effect a CNS shot through the "eye box." But when that target exists in 3-dimensional space, things get a little trickier.

If you're looking to zip that bullet straight through the individual from the groin? The question then becomes the relationship of the heart/lungs and large vessels of the upper thoracic versus the line that the bullet takes as it exits the barrel (true, we can't account for the deflection and deviation from "ideal path" once the bullet enters medium, but hey, we can at least start with it on a true path ;) ).

IIRC, Awerbuck's full presentation in his Panteo video did address those very "what if's" that brought up, @Rick Lewis .

Great question.
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